Getting Around in Delhi

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transport in India
In a city as large as Delhi, with a population of over 18 million people, it can often feel like the city’s entire populace is trying to commute at the same time.
 
As a result, expats will find that getting around Delhi can make for a hectic and crowded experience. Cars, buses, bicycles, motorcycles, auto rickshaws, pedestrians and even cows all share the same road.
 
People often tend not to obey standard traffic laws, adding further to the chaos. Therefore, it is highly recommended that expats, especially those new to the city, don’t try to drive themselves, and instead rely on other forms of private/public transport instead.
 
With some time and practice (and a good city map), Delhi, on the whole, can be a fairly easy city to navigate. There are a handful of main roads and arteries through which most major parts of the city can be reached.
 
Expats should not assume people will know street names. Rather, most tend to know the names of landmarks or various neighbourhoods and colonies, and use these as reference points to get around the city. Expats should certainly learn to use places to help orient themselves as opposed to traditional roads and highways. If lost, it is best to ask a local for help. Delhiites tend to be friendly and are usually more than happy to provide directions.

Public transport in Delhi


Rickshaws

There are two kinds of rickshaws in Delhi – cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws (sometimes referred to as “three-wheelers” or simply “scooters”).

Cycle rickshaws are powered by the driver pedalling in front, while passengers ride on a covered bench behind the driver. They have been banned in many parts of the city, though they can still be found in a few busy neighbourhoods and bazaars (including Old Delhi, Lajpat Nagar and Nizamuddin area). They are an inexpensive way to travel short distances, or through markets that might seem too hectic to traverse on foot.

Auto rickshaws are partially enclosed vehicles that can be hailed from nearly every street corner in the city. They can comfortably fit up to three passengers, plus the driver in front. They are cheaper than taxis, and, because of their smaller size, can usually negotiate heavy traffic a bit faster.

 

Buses

Buses in Delhi are cheap and the network of bus routes is extensive. They are, however, probably the least comfortable way to travel. They tend to be quite crowded and don’t always have air-conditioning. It is not recommended that unaccompanied women or children use this form of transportation.
 
Bus routes can also sometimes be difficult to navigate. Signage is often written in Hindi, and many stops don’t have route lists. It is best to ask other passengers or the bus driver to confirm the bus route you are on and the bus is indeed stopping at one's destination.
 

Metro

The Delhi Metro is a fast, clean and efficient form of public transportation. And with new lines continuing to open, the Metro is becoming an easy way to travel about the city. It is best to avoid the Metro during rush hours, though, when the cars can become quite packed. 
 
Depending on how frequently one plans to use the Metro, “Smart Cards” can be purchased rather than the one-time-use tokens.
 

Safety of public transportation

As with public transportation in any major city, when travelling in Delhi expats should remain aware of their surroundings, be watchful of belongings, and stay alert when travelling at night. Women and children should also avoid the buses and opt for less crowded forms of transportation.

Aside from these general cautions, though, public transportation in Delhi is, by and large, a safe way to travel.

 

Taxis in Delhi


Taxis are easily available in the city, and are preferable if one is travelling more than a few kilometres, or on an especially hot or rainy day when an open-sided rickshaw may be uncomfortable. Many taxis are yellow and black Ambassador cars. However, newer taxis can be any make and colour. All taxis can be identified, though, by their yellow license plates. Taxis can be arranged either at a roadside taxi stand, or through calling any of the radio taxi services in the city.

Taxis are all equipped with meters, which the driver should agree to use. If he doesn’t, though, as with autos, agree on a price before entering the cab. 
 

Walking in Delhi


Delhi is not a very pedestrian-friendly city. Footpaths are often dusty and broken, and most commercial centres and cultural sites are too far from residential areas to make for a comfortable walk. Walking within one’s colony or to the local market is feasible, but using walking as a primary mode of transport is not very practical or possible.
 

Cycling in Delhi


Similarly, travelling by bicycle, scooter, or motorcycle is fine within an expat’s own neighbourhood, but it is not recommended as a form of transportation on the main roads. Larger vehicles usually do not give way for smaller cycles, and cyclists are expected to manoeuvre within very small spaces, often on rough roads. Cycling of any kind is best left to those who have had several years’ experience navigating Delhi’s traffic and roads.
 

Driving in Delhi


While expats can buy or hire a car in Delhi, driving conditions in the city are chaotic. Foreigners who do decide to drive need to act defensively and pre-empt the erratic behaviour of other road users.
 
If an expat plans to live in Delhi for an extended period, then it may be worth looking into hiring a full-time or part-time driver. Many expats and middle- to upper-class Indian families keep drivers on their payroll. Those new to the city will find having a driver especially helpful in negotiating traffic and navigating the sometimes confusing roads. If expats are in India with a company, they should see if they can help in finding or arranging for a driver.

Our Delhi Expert

KatherineErnst's picture
Ohio, the USA. Delhi, India
Katherine Ernst moved from Northeast Ohio, USA to New Delhi, India, where she now lives with her Indian fiancé and his... more

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